Tag Archives: MagicArtist

Summer Camp

I do one 'kids show' a year, and I wish I could do many more, as long as they were as gratifying, as heartwarming, as the Charlotte MDA Summer Camp. Every summer for the past 11 years, I've been invited to entertain the campers and the counselors one evening, and every time I leave, I'm struck by how lucky I am to have been there.

The children and youth that attend have various forms of muscular dystrophy, but their enthusiasm is unmatched in any audience I've had the privilege to work for. Yes, it's your typical summer camp. There are multiple activities and campfires and sing alongs and home sickness and stomach bugs and everything that makes camp a silver memory that many of us treasure for our lifetime. It's so much more than that, though. As you might imagine, working with the individual challenges of each camper is a daunting endeavor, yet it's done with humor, energy, and style. So much grace …

And there's love. Man, the love in that place is so thick you could spread it on toast. The staff and the counselors bring their best for the campers and everyone looks out for everyone else. Maybe I'm gushing a little, but I'm sincere.

The past three years I arrived wrapped up in my own troubles, and they vanish within the first few minutes. I leave invigorated, happy, and hopeful. And moved. Lifted so high, emotionally.

I'm not …. writing about this to brag, or promote my image. I want to impress on you the value of giving of your ability. Taking your talent, your time, your vitality and using it to enrich the lives of those who need it and see so little in their world. It could be anything, any cause, listen to your heart. Believe this: it's been worth any 'sacrifice' I've had to make in order to be there.

The love you need is where you plant it.

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June 25, 2017

Tampa, Florida

Masters of Magic show at the Magic Emporium

Afterward, as I’m chatting with people and packing up, a lady approached. She took my hand and shook it, then pulled me close for a hug. As she did so, she said nothing, but she held my gaze and the expression in her eyes was so meaningful that I felt tears welling up in my own. You could feel it through the room, and all around us, for a moment, everyone was quiet.

My words have reached deep inside some people, and sometimes they just want to let me know. Some people can say more with their eyes than their mouths. And I can listen with my eyes –often better than with my ears.

I hope she felt my mutual gratitude.

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On Splintering

A very good friend wrote to me this morning. He’d caught wind of some of the things happening in my personal life and extended his sympathies.

Off topic: I’m very torn about how much to share via this medium. On one hand I don’t wish to hold anything back; I want to write honestly and with raw feeling. On the other I don’t want to bring pain to anyone, most especially the people I hold close and dear. My personal viewpoint would almost certainly do that. What to do …

At any rate, my friend closed with the sentence: “worlds are collapsing all around me”. This sentiment touched me deeply. The events happening around me are hard and full of sorrow. There are goodbyes and longing and … seeming endless hours of waiting. Waiting for a word, a gesture. But my world, my journey isn’t collapsing. I’m losing some very important gifts. Stories are ending much sooner than expected and I feel powerless to change things, powerless to heal the wounds on myself and on others. It hurts, make no mistake.

But … it’s a semicolon, not a period. My sentence, my story isn’t over yet. There are chapters ahead. I still have my talents, my personal gifts of laughter, magic and storytelling … these gifts are still mine to share. I’ll keep moving forward and striving to love with all my might.

You can, too. This isn’t the end.

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On My Death

A casually morbid post. Nobody panic: I’m not depressed or particularly sad at the moment. There’s just some thoughts rummaging around and … well, this is what I do.

I’m at the jumping off point of an adventure. New Orleans for the weekend, performing for the art gallery folks, then off to the Magic Castle for a week and finally FISM. After that … well, we’ll see. NOLA, Hollywood, Italy. I’m happy and excited to share my show, my vision. I have no illusion about winning, but that’s really something I want to write about separately.

Today I’m thinking about death. The finality and the non-finality. This may seem random, because it is.

I’d really like a broken wand ceremony. And I’d really like for my friend Tony Miller to execute it at CRF. My friends and extended family there have provided a great deal of magic in my life and I think the setting is appropriate.

In that death is a genuine physical ending … do as you will with my remains. In my whimsy, I would ask to be cremated and have my ashes strewn into the wind and surf near what used to be Scotch Bonnet pier on Topsail Island in North Carolina. My childhood, my ‘coming of age’ and the realization of who I am all happened there. There’s real magic in that place.

In that death is a great vast unknown … I hope that my consciousness continues, that I get to explore new truths. Who knows?

Don’t mourn me. Celebrate what we had. I did my best to spread joy and love. At times I failed utterly, usually to the people I’m closest to. Loving me has meant having to share me with the world, and that can be real hell.

Enough with the maudlin. I’ve got some decades left to live, in theory, and I’m going to continue to strive for more: more excellence in my art, more love in my life and more joy in my soul.

I’ll share these things with you.

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They don’t really know me here. (Friday, February 20)

I mean, the promoters do, obviously: they didn’t pay this much to get me here for no reason. It’s the attendees. I’m standing with my friends, some real ‘names’ in the business and I’m the ‘who is that?’ guy. “He doesn’t look like much …”

I arose this morning and wrote. Looking back, it wasn’t bad. It could certainly use some editing, but that can be fixed if need be, later. You want raw thoughts, right? It’s a diary …

Breakfast was thick bacon, tomatoes and home fries. Eggs of … some description. There was dill. I recognized that, at least. Quite tasty and filling. I hid the tomatoes. Sorry, Mom.

I made may over the venue for what turned out to be a largely uneventful day. I  sat in on a session or two. Stayed near my table in the dealer’s room, chatted with some old friends until time for my show. There was a small argument backstage about whether or not I was good enough to close the show. (This was a showcase of seven close up performers.) The talent ‘handler’ was telling the show coordinator that I had to take the closing spot. He wasn’t convinced and was vehemently arguing that I was a no-name and had to settle for the second to last. A coin was flipped. That’s fine. My ego needed some trimming anyway. I ended up in the closing spot.

So, yeah. I took the stage with the ‘Memories’ act. Ice Cream and coins. I laid out my story and I feel it was received well. Perhaps tomorrow they’ll know me a little better?

The rest of today will be food and sessioning. Magicians helping magicians. Everyone on an equal field, showing their craft; helping and being helped. Brothers and Sisters truly striving to improve the face of this craft. THIS is where real magic and friendship happen.

Until tomorrow, friends.

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Dancing and Heart Shaped Boxes: Christmas, 2014

Right now it’s Christmas Eve. The kids have gone home or up to bed and I’m siting in the dark alone. By the time I’m done, it will be well into Christmas. Want to go for a walk with me?

This holiday for me has always been about family. The blood ones, the ones who married in, and the ones we invite to the table. You are loved, and I consider you family. You’re welcome at my table … bring a story, a song or something you made.

This year was creative. We all reached out for each other’s hearts. For myself: Carlaysle made me a porcelain dragon lamp, Avalon Rose Stuffed a Joy Tea box with inspirational quotes and petals from flowers I gave her once, Grace made desserts in the kitchen of her newlywed first house and Braiden brought us his music.

 

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“The book of love is long and boring, and written very long ago. It’s full of flowers and heart shaped boxes and things we’re all too young to know.” ~ Magnetic Fields

When I opened Avalon’s gift and saw what she created for me, it brought me to tears. Literally. I sat there with water pouring down my face, unable to breathe. I was very moved, especially since we’ve had some friction lately. I’m more than a little afraid we’re growing apart like I did with my father. And it’s largely my fault. But that is another story. Tonight she showed me how much she thinks about me, and how she still feels about her old man. All the kids showed me: I am surrounded by love.

Tonight sparked memories of my father.

My father and I were never really close. I wasn’t quite good enough to be the son he wanted. That’s a quote from the man himself. Dad was an architect and an electrical engineer. Smartest man I knew. A real straight line thinker. Conservative in his living and no-frills. His vices were whiskey and golf, and those in moderation. He was in the Army and played college football with Sonny Jurgensen. (Look it up). I was non-athletic and a real let down. He tried really hard to get me into baseball and football, but I just had no talent for it. My only asset was that I could take a hit. Even as a young, skinny man, my low center of gravity and … solidity made it really difficult to get me off my feet. Anyway, I couldn’t play very well and had no skill at all. Dad bitterly gave up when I was about 15.

At that age I picked up theater and music in earnest. My path went far and astray from what my dad considered respectable. We quite simply grew apart and I just … started talking to myself and working things out on my own. When I became a magician, he threw his hands up completely. I was a waste; a dime a dozen. His words. Art and frivolity were nice for some people, but he just knew I was supposed to be something … worthwhile, and it mad him very sad that his only son didn’t follow his footprints.

Now … Dad loved to laugh, and I could usually make him laugh. You can’t tell it from any of his photographs, but he had a big, hearty laugh. He just didn’t think show business was a good way to raise a family. On more than one occasion I spied him dancing when he thought no one was watching. Turns out … he was a hell of a good dancer.

Pancreatic cancer took my father swiftly. From diagnosis to the end was just a matter of ano few pain-filled weeks. I kind of got to say goodbye. He was high on pain meds and didn’t really understand that I was even there. He died while I was onstage. I got the news when I got back to my room after.

When I attended his wake, I got a shock. Stranger after stranger came up to me to tell me how much my father bragged to them about his son, the great magician. Apparently he told many stories to them about my shows, the contests I was in and the places I traveled to. And then:

And then …

And then I went to clean out his house. In the back of his bedroom closet I found two boxes. One was full of trophies. Recently dated trophies. The other was full of newspaper articles about me. Photographs. Magazines and video tapes of television programs I had appeared on. A box full of love and pride. Color me boggled.

The trophies? They were for ballroom dancing. My stepmother explained that at fifty years of age, found his passion in dancing, and he was quite good at it. He won several awards and competitions. Rather than display his trophies, he put them in a box, carefully in the back of a dark closet. That is the man my father was.

In a twist of serendipity I bought myself a pair of dancing shoes for Christmas. I saw them and bought them with my father in mind. A few days later a very dear friend gave me a certificate for ballroom dancing lessons. I’m turning fifty next year.

 

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 “The book of love is long and boring, no one can lift the damn thing. It’s full of charts and facts and figures … and instructions for dancing.” ~ Magnetic Fields

Suddenly … because of this gift, I feel a little more in touch with the man he kept hidden. Perhaps we shared more than I ever knew. Thus a thoughtful gift changed my life and my heart. I want to embrace you all as family … scars, shyness and everything. Come as you are.

This table has plenty of seats available.

In your hands and in your heart you have the simple gifts to make a real difference. Love, caring, and compassion.

Will you give?

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Just Something Simple

“Good magic is simple, but the execution is not simplicity.” ~ René Lavand

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The man is an artist. His effect “Three Bread Crumbs” is one of the most poetic, moving pieces I have ever witnessed. Strike that: It IS the single most poetic, moving piece. I have performed it hundreds of times … for myself.

This piece of theater is infused with pure magic, whimsey, pain, love and loss. To execute it poorly, or to try and imitate the man who wrote it would be a crime. (To be sure, I have seen some very well executed homages to this man and his creation. Eric DeCamps is a master at it.) For myself, I just could not bring it to the public. It just wasn’t me. It felt clumsy and wrong, somehow. It’s one thing to put on your Father’s suit as a young boy and play to the mirror. It’s quite another to try and pass yourself off as the man himself.

So the props rested in the top drawer of my desk for years. When my creativity became stagnant, or the Blues got a hold on my soul, I would pull them out and perform the piece, teaching my hands to work the not-so-simple magic with just three pieces of balled up putty and an espresso cup. Over and over until I could relax and allow my ideas to come freely. The blues would fade and the road would become a bit more clear.

Then, completely unbidden, the muse landed on me. I was sitting in a cafe in Norfolk, VA with my beautiful companion and Muse, Dawn. There were small coffee cups on the table and a loaf of bread. We were discussing politics or fairy tales or something earth shattering … and a song came on the radio. Frank Sinatra singing ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green”. My mind wandered to Frank, then to Muppets and finally to my Muppet hero: Gonzo the Great. He has a song in the very first Muppet movie entitled “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday”.

The song is very simple: three verses and a bridge, just under three minutes long but it speaks of longing, love, pain and dreams. I found my self tearing off pieces of the bread and balling them up. I performed “Three Bread Crumbs” while singing the song aloud … it fit beautifully. The people I’ve shared it with so far have been moved by the magic and the story.

This is how magic is made – years of dedication and dreams and then a burst of inspiration that locks it all into place. The courage to put it out there and possibly fail, only to be surprised with success.

I hope I get to share this piece with you, someday soon.

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